Cambridge Audio's Best Albums of 2016
Which albums this year have stood out to the team at Cambridge Audio HQ?
It’s safe to say that 2016 has been an eventful year… Luckily there’s been plenty of fantastic new music releases to keep us going when we needed it the most! We asked the team to pick their standout album from the past 12 months and why they love it so much. Prepare for an eclectic list of genres and artists:
The last offering from an Icon. Inspired and Inspiring. Imaginative, inventive, and totally original. The title track ‘Blackstar’, first captivated me with its strange alien form and haunting melody. Then ‘Lazarus’ even more mysterious, even more dramatic and with his death; shocking and so final. It’s a fantastically personal story told through remarkable lyrics. Full of sorrow yet uplifting in its achievement. It may or may not be jazz but it has the timeless quality of such a record. The music is powerful and adventurous with wonderful musicianship. And in the end, full of emotion, simply amazing songs. – Stuart George, MD.
A surprise album that combines and finishes the previous two albums. Offering a mix of remixes & new tracks it really is the culmination of their work over the last few years. A band I discovered whilst travelling in Australia they are refreshingly different to most antipodean offerings. A great listen from start to finish. – Ed O’Conner, Accounts.
Insanely proactive band who seemingly never stop touring, writing or recording. A group of frenetic riffs and motifs, arranged into a never-ending loop. It lulls you into the thought that an album like this can only be the result of meticulous planning, and months of hard work, but as this is their eighth album in four years I’m inclined to believe that they’re just supernaturally talented. Harry Parsons, Engineering.
Augustines’ third album has some absolute anthems like ‘Are You Alive’ and title track ‘This is Your Life’ which are guaranteed to get you jumping about, but it lacked the same scale of emotion from the previous two albums, although ‘Landmine’ gets pretty close. So the album didn’t bowl me over at first, but then they announced their 2016 tour to be their last so when I heard the album live alongside the others for the very last time, inevitably, it has become without a doubt my favourite and most memorable of 2016. – Charlotte Myson, Marketing.
Certainly not an album for a casual listen but if you put in the time, amazingly rewarding. As usual, song writing, musicianship and production are all absolutely at the top of their game but it is the creativity that drew me in. More approachable than previous albums there is some beautiful ‘music’ here: some songs are stripped back to almost nothing whilst other are almost orchestral in their layers. In an age of sound-bite pop dressing up as ‘artists’, it’s a blessing that there is still a place for this kind of creative craftsmanship. – Ben Carratu, Design.
After what seemed like an eternity away from the scene, it’s safe to say no one expected the release of two albums of such excellence in the space of just over a year. Although arguments will be made for ‘Trick’ not quite emulating the early work of Jamie T, I feel it’s clear to see that tracks such as ‘Tecoland’ & ‘Dragon Bones’ are right up there with the very best! Following on from 2014’s eagerly anticipated ‘Carry on the Grudge’ this album blends everything that people have grown to love about the raw, unique style he adopted since day one, nearly a decade ago! It seems like a lifetime ago since the release of debut album ‘Panic Prevention’ which included the highly regarded single ‘Sheila’, and now here we are with the release of the 4th album ‘Trick’ and it’s clear to see that Jamie hasn’t once been tempted to sway from the style that has seen him receive such widespread critical acclaim! – Lawrence Jelley, Accounts.
An immensely, energetic and furious album that takes advantage of a band on the brink of self-destruct. The album title is a quote from lead singer Stefan Babcock’s doctor during a throat examination after their 200-date tour. So obviously, they ignored medical advice and turned it into an album laden with indie rock hooks and punk rock aggression with tongue firmly in cheek. You can really feel the energy pulsating from ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ and ‘DVP’. It’s a half-hour, punk rock rampage through the trials and tribulations of four Canadian twenty-somethings getting blackout drunk, hating everyone and even each other. And it’s never sounded so good! – Liam Ruane, Marketing
There have been many great albums released in 2016 but my top pick is 'California' by Blink-182. The band have faced many issues in recent years which has resulted in guitarist and singer Tom Delonge not appearing on this latest release. Instead Matt Skiba from Alkaline Trio has taken his place and this new addition has brought some fresh life back to the band. The album itself has tracks that very much remind me of the earlier days of Blink such as 'Sober' or 'Teenage Satellites' but also tracks such as 'Los Angeles' and Left Alone' show how much the band has matured. Not to say that this is a mature album at all, as short tracks 'Built This Pool' and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' show this side of the band. For me this is the best Blink album since 'Enema of the State' in 1999 and has been played none stop all year. – Sam Meredith, Engineering.
I came across this album on one of my many trips travelling the globe for Cambridge Audio and it is the first album in some time that I can play front to back. This album is a journey in smooth and laid-back instrumental house music. There are keyboards, twangy guitars and plenty of bass that will get your feet tapping and head bopping. Almost jazz, soul and electronic all infused into one that makes it for natural listening and pure enjoyment. ‘Fade Out Lines’ may be the track some will have heard but try the cover of The Black Keys ‘Lonely Boy’ you will not be disappointed. – Gregg Chopper, Sales.
22, A Million is the third studio album from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Containing a list of rather bizarre named songs, Vernon’s haunting lyrics, soothing vocals and mastery of auto tune have offered up a beautifully crafted album that is a far cry from For Emma, Forever ago. Personal highlights from the album include 33 “God” and 8 (circle). This long anticipated album did not disappoint, it’s wonderfully weird and I look forward to seeing him performing this live in the new year. – Rebecca Corderoy, Marketing.
Without doubt the most played album in my collection for 2016. A masterpiece of an album infused with so many elements and genres from 4/4 dance grooves to bouncing jazz influenced hip hop tracks. To compliment his production master class in addictive and synth heavy beats Kaytranada welcomes an impressive line-up of artists from the likes of the UK famed Craig David to American Hip Hop stars such as Vic Mensa and Anderson Paak. 99.9% has an eclectic 15 track journey with a perfect transition from start to finish. Each song brings a different dynamic to the table with smooth instrumentals like ‘Bus Ride’ to head bangers like ‘Drive me Crazy’. With such a diverse range in rhythm and style it’s hard to think of a better album that has the same energy injected into it to pull of such complex change in styles throughout. Every time I play it I hear something new in each song. – Tom Ogilvie, Sales
Did any of these albums top your list of 2016 releases? Are there any amazing records we’ve missed off? Make sure you let us know in the comments below.